Back and forth affair too much for Portage

By Todd Holsopple

For the Mirror

BERLIN — The Portage Mustangs and Berlin Mountaineers squared off in a taut, back-and-forth affair with a clear path to the WestPAC title on the line, but the Mustangs couldn’t hold a third-quarter lead and fell, 30-26, Friday night.

“They have a great football team, we have a great football team, and this was a great football game,” Portage coach Gary Gouse said afterwards. “Both teams battled very hard.”

“I like coaching games like this. There were two great football teams here tonight,” Berlin coach Doug Paul said.

Berlin’s multi-faceted offense roared first, driving 65 yards on nine plays, highlighted by a 33-yard connection from senior quarterback Luke Brick to Jacob Fisher. The Mountaineers stalled inside the Portage red zone and settled for a 24-yard field goal from Carter Raupach.

After trading possessions, Berlin showed its big-play ability on a third-and-long situation when Brick found a streaking Charlie Hersch for a 58-yard strike to give the Mountaineers a 10-0 lead in the opening frame.

The Mustangs responded in the second quarter. Forcing Berlin to punt deep inside of its own territory, senior Tom Randazzo scurried 34 yards to set Portage up inside the Mountaineer 10-yard line. Zach Wiggins powered into the end zone two plays later to put the Mustangs on the board, 10-6.

Portage seemed to draw the momentum away from Berlin on the following drive when junior Isaiah Paul fumbled during a long run. The Mustangs recovered, and Randazzo again showed his game-breaking speed five plays later, zipping 42 yards for a score. Connor Price converted the two-point attempt to give Portage a 14-10 lead.

Berlin answered on the ensuing drive, capping off an eight-play drive with a 19-yard flea-flicker pass from Brick to Tyler Custer to take a 17-14 lead into the half.

The Mustangs offense galloped on the opening drive of the second half to regain the advantage, capped by a 20-yard scamper from Randazzo to edge ahead 20-17.

Portage held the Moutaineer offense on the ensuing drive, but a botched snap near midfield stole the momentum away from the Mustangs. Berlin needed only six plays before Brick found paydirt on an option keeper to give the Mountaineers a 23-20 lead they would not relinquish.

Senior Shawn Yanosky capped a fourth-quarter drive with a 2-yard plunge a few drives later to put Berlin ahead 30-20. Portage overcame a personal foul penalty and a long fourth down deep in its own territory when Randazzo took a short pass from Price 56 yards into Berlin territory.

Wiggins scored three plays later to make the score to 30-26, but the Mustangs were unable to recover the onside kick that followed.

Hersch paced the Mountaineer attack with 147 yards rushing and 87 receiving, while Brick passed for two touchdowns and 186 yards. The Mustangs were led on the ground by Wiggins’ 137 yards, while Randazzo added 116.

Gouse knew the back-and-forth nature of the game hurt his Mustangs at times.

“It was nuts. We had everything go wrong at the beginning, and we rode the storm out. We got ourselves into a position to win.”

Berlin remains undefeated at 7-0 and hosts Windber next week. The Mustangs fall to 6-1 and host Shade.

“We had a couple pass plays that we needed,” Paul said. “We knew we had to come out with some things they haven’t seen yet this year. I’m proud of every single one of our kids.”

SCORE BY QUARTERS

Portage 0 14 6 6 — 26

Berlin 10 7 6 7 — 30

First Quarter

B–Raupach 24 field goal, 9:00

B–Hersch 58 pass from Brick (Raupach kick), 2:13

Second Quarter

P–Wiggins 4 run (run failed), 7:16

P–Randazzo 42 run (Price run), 4:27

B–Custer 19 pass from Brick (Raupach kick), 1:41

Third Quarter

P–Randazzo 20 run (run failed), 10:09

B–Brick 3 run (kick failed), 1:25

Fourth Quarter

B–Yanosky 2 run (Raupach kick)

P–Wiggins 3 run (run failed), 3:19.

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: Portage–Wiggins 25-137, Randazzo 10-116, Shaffer 5-26, Price 12-2, Forst 1-(-3). Berlin–Hersch 31-147, Yanosky 3-21, Paul 4-13, Brick 5-5, Blubaugh 3-3, O’Neal 2-0, Team 3-(-6).

PASSING: Portage–Price 1-10-2-56. Berlin–Brick 7-12-0-186.

RECEIVING: Portage–Randazzo 1-56. Berlin–Hersh 3-87, Fisher 2-44, Paul 2-23, Custer 1-19, Simpson 1-13.

INTERCEPTIONS: Portage–None. Berlin–Spochart, Custer.

TEAM STATISTICS P B

First downs 12 12

Yards rushing 53-278 51-183

Pass (comp.-att.-int) 1-10-2 7-12-0

Yards passing 56 186

Total yards 334 369

Fumbles-lost 2-1 1-1

Penalties-yards 5-45 3-35

Punts-avg. 4-31 2-29

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